As we age, our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia increases, making it important to do everything we can to delay the onset and promote brain health.
At The Pavilion Senior Living, we recognize the impact that meaningful engagement has on our overall health and wellness. Below, our team is sharing how you can help a loved one stay active and connected while promoting brain health.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
“Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks” (alzheimers.gov). Accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.
Although the cause of Alzheimer’s remains unknown, scientists and researchers believe that abnormal structures called plaques (beta-amyloid protein) and tangles (tau protein) build up and cause damage to the cells and neurons in the brain, leading to the symptoms and effects of the condition.
Common Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s, and each form of dementia, affects individuals differently. However, common symptoms can signal the onset or progression of the condition.
These symptoms include:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble with visual or spatial relationships
- Problems with language (speaking and writing)
- Misplacing things without the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
Other Types of Dementia
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of conditions that affect a decline in cognitive functioning. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, other types affect the brain in similar ways.
Other types of dementia include:
- Vascular dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Lewy body dementia
- Mixed dementia
Risk Factors of Dementia
As previously mentioned, the cause of dementia is unknown, but researchers have linked certain factors to an increased risk of developing certain types of the condition. Some of these risk factors include:
- Increasing age
- Family history and genetics
- Previous head injury
- Excessive alcohol use
How Can You Promote Brain Health?
Maintain a Healthy Diet
How we choose to fuel our minds and bodies has a direct impact on their performance. For example, if you choose to eat junk food, you are more likely to feel sluggish. On the other hand, fueling your body with healthy foods will help you feel sharper and more energetic.
Eating well is essential to maintaining a sharp mind, as the brain needs the right balance of nutrients to operate well. Studies have found that a high intake of saturated or trans-unsaturated (hydrogenated) fats is associated with a higher risk of developing dementia.
To promote brain health, avoid fried and processed foods and eat more dark, leafy green vegetables, fruits, fish, lean proteins, and nuts to develop healthy food habits.
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, collards, and broccoli, for example, are great for promoting brain health. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “research suggests these plant-based foods may help slow cognitive decline.”
Furthermore, “fatty fish are abundant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy unsaturated fats that have been linked to lower blood levels of beta-amyloid – the protein that forms damaging clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease (health.harvard.edu).” These omega-3 fatty acids can help increase blood flow to the brain and lead to better cognitive functioning.
Get Plenty of Exercise
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and staying physically fit does not just keep muscles healthy. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation has found that exercise can reduce an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50 percent!
Daily exercise should include activities that help get the heart rate up, stretch muscles, and promote a healthy mind. Short walks exploring the outdoors, minor stretches, physical games like tennis, and even yoga are all great examples.
Yoga is a gentle exercise that fosters mindfulness as much as it involves physical activity. With a focus on meditation, deep breathing, and self-awareness, yoga helps expand the mind, reduce stress levels, and stretch muscles. Additionally, yoga can help manage diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease, making this activity perfect for promoting brain health.
Ensure Quality Sleep
Restful sleep is essential to human function at every stage of life, and researchers have found that insomnia or a lack of sleep is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Medical News Today reports, “a new study suggests that reduced sleep and poor sleep quality may be linked to increased build-up of beta-amyloid plaques in the brains of older adults – a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. This is according to a study published in Jama Neurology.”
Making an effort to get between 7-8 hours of sleep every night can potentially lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or related dementia.
Tips for getting plenty of quality sleep could include:
- Establish and stick to a regular bedtime routine
- Limit exposure to blue light in the evening (television, phone, tablets, etc.)
- Get a lot of exposure to natural light during the day
- Maintain a dark, cool, and quiet sleeping environment
- Do not nap in the late afternoon or evening
Read a Good Book
The brain demands exercise to keep it strong and healthy, just like all muscles in the body. Reading has been found to enhance connection in the brain, improving cognitive function and abilities. A decline in brain function is a normal part of aging, but reading regularly may help delay these effects. Additionally, keeping the mind active and engaged can slow the progression of dementia.
Reading books, magazines, or any form of writing can benefit and promote brain health. Through the different components, plots, characters, dialogue, and settings we consume by reading, we have to use and exercise our memory muscles.
Exercising the brain in challenging ways, like reading, can lead to a slower rate of memory decline. An additional benefit of reading is it can help reduce stress.
Socialize and Form Meaningful Connections
Holding a conversation takes more effort than you may realize. Not only do you have to listen to what someone is saying and formulate an appropriate response, but you have to remember what has been said in the conversation, so you do not repeat yourself or any information that the other person has already said. The difficulty only increases as more people are added to the conversation.
By socializing and connecting with others, you stimulate your mind, improve your language skills, and engage your memory.
Memory Care Supports Those with Dementia
If someone you love has already been diagnosed with dementia, memory care communities are designed to support and slow these conditions, helping individuals live more purposeful, fulfilling lifestyles.
At The Pavilion Senior Living, our memory care neighborhoods in Lebanon and Carthage, Tennessee, provide a safe and secure environment that meets each resident’s needs. Our team members are trained in managing the challenges associated with memory loss and focus on providing compassionate, person-centered care to each resident we serve.
In addition to the care we provide, we offer activities that encourage engagement, connection, and social wellness. Our memory care services include:
- Specialized programming
- Secure living environment
- Assistance with the activities of daily living
- Medication management
Our mission at The Pavilion is to create a safe, comfortable environment that allows residents to maintain as much of their independence as possible while offering peace of mind to their families.
Our memory care communities focus on individuals’ strengths and interests to enhance their quality of life and promote cognitive function, encouraging them to live life purposefully.
While there may not currently be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias, there are ways to promote brain health and delay the onset or progression of the condition.
To learn more about our care services and what we offer in our senior living communities throughout Tennessee, we invite you to visit our website or contact a member of our team today.
Updated: September 2022